CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 4 . . . . October 15, 2004
Unable to comprehend or master the tasks and skills required of him, Ian dreads going to school until the day when he finds a special egg sized rock which seems to transport Ian into another world. Keeping the stone in his pocket, Ian harnesses the magic to help calm the nervousness and stress he feels as he works.
Ian's growing collection of magical rocks suddenly creates a problem! In front of the whole school at recess, Ian's pants fall down from the weight of his rocks. After Ian cries away his humiliation, BJ, the teacher's assistant, brings Ian back to the class to meet a storyteller who skillfully encourages Ian to share his stories of the magical rocks. After the storyteller has left, Ian takes BJ into the school yard to show him some other special rocks that he has used to print his name.
Sheree Fitch and illustrator Helen Flook were well matched for creating this magical story about a child coping with a learning disability. Using pastels, Flook transports the reader into Ian's imagination and emotions and accentuates the author's description of the same. When Ian's smile droops and turns into a "scribbly line," Flook repeats the shape on Ian's face in the background of the picture and in the shape of a wiggly tube of toothpaste.
Flook's work seems to radiate the energy and magic of the rocks. Swirling yellows and radiating waves of blue and green emanate from the rock that Ian finds in the school yard. White light seems to swirl and carry Ian into the worlds of the rocks while the pages of Ian's printing work seem to flutter away along with a bird that Fitch says is in Ian's stomach.
In other instances, Flook uses shadow and light to suggest the storyteller's celebrity qualities and to reflect the depth of emotions that BJ and Ian feel as a result of Ian's printing achievement.
Flook represents Ian's newly gained self-confident with a restricted sense of movement and energy. In the final picture, Ian is in a messy bedroom where he is lying on his bed, playing with his rock. Although Ian is kicking his feet in the air, he is relatively still while a cat chasing a bouncing rock seems to channel the energy away from Ian and onto the end pages.
In the end pages, Flook's images suggest that Ian is dreaming or imagining with his rocks that are taking him, and the reader, into outer space.
Pocket Rocks could be used to teach empathy for those with learning disabilities. It could also be used to give hope to children with learning disabilities and to teach children how to deal with stress by using their imagination. Escapism, via recreational and creative imagination, is often a way to release us into finding solutions to our problems. It may also be the way that we can find resources to anticipate and divert disaster, for, as one comment of the inquiry into the 9/11 tragedy indicated, the United States failed not from a lack of a security but from a failure of imagination.
Located in Brandon, MB., Denise Weir is a Consultant with the Public Library Services Branch of Manitoba's Dept. of Culture, Heritage and Tourism.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.